Monday, October 18, 2004

In Saskia Sassen's book The Global City (2001, Princeton University Press), she describes the (counter-intuitive) process of the formation of major urban centers like New York, London and Tokyo as the command centers of the global economy. I say counter-intuitive because new communication technologies allow for the decentralization of command and control. For a variety of reasons, Sassen argues that the opposite takes place.

Furthermore, these cities become, to some extent, disconnected from the nation-state:

These cities constitute a system rather than merely competing with each other. What contributes to growth in the network of global cities may well not contribute to growth as nations.(9)

She describes the architecture of a global network of cities: key cities as nodes, linked in a variety of ways, including financial flows, communication, travel, and trade.

For Sassen, one of the important reasons for the formation of these global cities are changes in the financial system from the 1980s on, requiring the concentration of firms (and the workers at all levels to support the concentration) in the global cities to make the system work.

That is, the emergence of speculative capital carried with it certain imperatives that contribute not just to globalization, but to the network of globalization. The city nodes provide a concrete reflection of the digitalized connections of 21st century finance.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Media - information networks - noosphere

Here's a link to the freepress site campaign to pressure Sinclair broadcasting to not show the anti-Kerry documentary a few days before the election, or at least to provide equal time for counter-programming:

I know this barely scratches the surface of addressing what is wrong w/ the dominant media networks; that Bush vs Kerry is a flimsy set of choices; etc. etc. But on the other hand, that's what is in front of us now, so ... deal with it.


Monday, October 11, 2004

One of the foundation ideas of materialism is that we live in a law-governed universe. And one of the foundation concepts of dialectics (and focal points of this blog) is interconnectedness. Probably the most important type of interconnection is that of cause-and-effect. Here's an excerpt from a recent Nature item of interest:

Is causality an inherent and necessary characteristic of the Universe, or just an illusion produced by the way our brains interpret the world?

It's real, say physicists, who believe they have worked out how the Universe is constructed from the tiniest building-blocks of space-time. The finding could also help the development of a theory of quantum gravity, which would marry the two currently estranged physical theories of the Universe: quantum theory and relativity.

How can the observable universe emerge out of quantum interactions at the tiniest level?

"Physicists have long been trying to figure out how the fuzzy nature of space-time at this tiny scale can give rise to the large four-dimensional Universe we see around us, as described by Einstein's theory of relativity."

In trying to assemble these tiny quanta pieces,

Renate Loll of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and her co-workers have now found a way to assemble the pieces so that they inevitably produce a four-dimensional Universe. Instead of assuming that all tilings are allowed, they impose two constraints.

First, the theory of relativity must apply within each individual tile (so that nothing can travel through it faster than light) and second, the assembly must preserve causality. This means that a piece of space-time cannot be constructed in such a way that an 'event' - some change in the Universe - precedes its cause.

When they enforced these criteria on their calculations, the researchers ended up with universes with three spatial dimensions and one time dimension - just like our own1. It was "like magic", says Loll.

Even more startling, they found that typical universes generated this way started off small and got bigger - they expanded, just like the real Universe has done since the big bang. This was completely unexpected - there was nothing in the tiling rules that seemed to demand it. 'We're completely stunned,' says Loll.

She admits that there's no a priori reason to demand that quantum space-time has to observe causality: the researchers put it into their equations by hand. But that, it seems, is the only way to end up with a realistic Universe.

For the complete item:

Sunday, October 03, 2004

"Without a corresponding theory of behavior -- of dynamics -- a theory of network structure is essentially uninterpretable and therefore of little practical use." (Duncan Watts, Six Degrees, 51)
In an earlier post (6/6/04), I referenced Steven Johnson's Emergence book where he talks about idea revolutions and paradigm shifts in terms of emergence (and by easy extrapolation, as aspects of network behavior).

Here's a relevant story to terrify the kids at bedtime:

"Intelligent design advocates say that teaching students to 'critically analyze' evolution will help give them the skills to 'see both sides' of all scientific issues. And if the Discovery Institute execs have their way, those skills will be used to reconsider the philosophy of modern science itself - which they blame for everything from divorce to abortion to the insanity defense. 'Our culture has been deeply influenced by materialist thought,' says Meyer. 'We think it's deeply destructive, and we think it's false. And we mean to overturn it.'" ("The Crusade Against Evolution", Wired, Oct. 2004. (And see also: "Discovery Institute's 'Wedge project' circulates online".

This is an example of hacking the idea network, to change both it's behavior and its content.